The activist group Move LA held its “L.A. on the Verge’ event at Union Station on Friday, with a big focus on transportation funding.
The group is headed by former Santa Monica Mayor Denny Zane, who clearly let the hundreds in attendance know his position: the Measure R sales tax increase that expires in 2039 should be extended by voters.
Such an extension could accomplish two things, according to Zane: 1) It could help accelerate the building of the 12 Measure R transit projects if Congress doesn’t fully adopt the America Fast Forward plan (and they’re not likely to), and; 2) It may help finance additional transit and highway projects beyond the original Measure R package approved by Los Angeles County voters in 2008.
Some of Metro’s key players were in attendance. It’s important to note that neither agency staff or any members of the Board of Directors have endorsed extending Measure R either this year or in the future. Here are a few key points that were made as part of a panel discussion on funding:
•Metro government relations staff said that the agency is currently crunching the numbers to see what a Measure R extension would be able to accomplish in terms of speeding up the building of transit projects. Those numbers will eventually be presented to the Metro Board of Directors. The basic concept is to borrow against future revenues.
•Assemblyman Mike Feuer (D-Los Angeles) explained the path his state bill would have to take, since that bill is necessary to get a Measure R extension on the ballot. If Metro pursues an extension this year, the bill will need two-thirds approval in the Legislature as an “urgency measure.” That’s never easy, considering the bill involves a tax and “tax” is never a popular word in an election year, even if it’s continuing a new tax and not a new one.
•Zane mentioned several projects that he would like to see funded by a Measure R extension, including the extension of the Gold Line Foothill Extension to Montclair, the Crenshaw Line north to a junction with the Red Line in Hollywood, pushing the Westside Subway Extension to Bundy and an extension of the still-to-be-defined Sepulveda Pass transit project all the way from the San Fernando Valley to LAX, among others.
As for those extra projects it’s important to stress that Metro does have a long-range plan that has a list of projects that are currently unfunded and are considered high priority beyond Measure R. Many of the projects that Zane mentioned are in the plan. A line from the Valley to LAX, however, is not.
Bottom line: At the end of the day, it’s up to the Metro Board of Directors and they are going to have to weigh many factors, including most notably how much Metro can borrow to accelerate the construction of transit projects.